LAST year, Newport was greeted by Cassie, the first Mari Lwyd for the city, in a walk through the centre of the city, taking in the sites and delighting passers by who were out on their Saturday shop.

For a first run of a weird and wonderful, lesser-known tradition, organisers Richard Atkin and Monty Dart were delighted with the turn out and had planned for a bigger and better 2021 event.

However, like almost everything else, the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to the plans. This hasn’t stopped Mr Atkin from making sure that Cassie is still around – bringing her out in video form to greet the city instead.

While it is not the way they wanted to continue and celebrate the tradition, it still keeps Cassie and the Mari Lwyd tradition in the public eye while they plan for a bigger and better 2022.

But what is Cassie?

Cassie – short for Casnewydd, Welsh for Newport – is a horse’s head decorated for the Mari Lwyd tradition. The horse skull is the property of historian Monty Dart, whose late husband Tom gave her the skull. It was her dream to have the Mari Lwyd come to Newport and she loans the skull to Mr Atkin for the video. It is on a pole and is carried by one person while led by another. In the video, Mr Atkin is leading the Mari Lwyd while his wife Maria is carrying it. The video was filmed by their son Tom.


What is the Mari Lwyd for?

The Mari Lwyd is an ancient tradition that is said to bring good luck and fortune to those who take part.

In Wales, it would traditionally be done on January 13. The Mari Lwyd would travel through a village, knocking on doors and engaging in a witty and fun battle of rhyme, called pwnco, where they would sing back and forth with the occupants of each house.

After the battle, the Mari Lwyd and their party would be granted entry into the house and would be able to eat and drink.

It is said that upon leaving the house, the occupants would be granted good fortune and luck for the year ahead.

Why haven’t I heard of it before?

It is a long-standing tradition in many small villages and towns but is not as prominent as it was historically.

Chepstow is one of the main villages to take part in the tradition and there is one in Brecon, but it is more common the further west you go in Wales.

The first recorded Mari Lwyd was in 1800.

Why is it held on January 13?

January 13 is the New Year’s Eve, with January 14 being Hen Galan, or New Year’s Day in the Julian Calendar.

While the Gregorian calendar was brought into place in 1752, a number of people resisted the change – which included the people of Gwaun Valley in Pembrokeshire.

It is still celebrated today – with it being rumoured to rival the Christmas celebrations.

A lot of singing is involved in the celebrations. Children go door to door singing in the morning and are given sweets or money – known as Calennig. It is here that it is common for the Mari Lwyd to accompany them.

The Newport Mari Lwyd will continue in 2022, but for this year, the only appearance she will make is via the above video.